New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Press Conference with Local Media
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Opening Statement:"Just wanted to give an update just with today before we start in free agency, kind of going in order with our first pick in the fifth round we drafted Davis Tull. He is an outside linebacker, (from) Tennessee Chattanooga. This guy had great production in college, great makeup, and an exceptional workout. He is a guy that dealt with an injury and some rehab and will continue to have to do that, but he's someone that we had a real high grade on and we were fortunate to get at that selection. He can play Sam (linebacker). We feel like it is just one of those positions where he has production in the rush, special teams, versatility is a plus here with his vision and also someone that we feel like can rush in the nickel. Tyeler Davison, an interior defensive lineman out of Fresno State, was our next pick. He too had a lot of production rushing the passer. We liked his size; he had really good length, long arms, again, good makeup, good football character and was a guy that we spent a lot of time on last week. There was a group of these nose tackles that were kind of clumped together early in the process and we were able to select him in the fifth round. So as that round continued we had a real high grade on a corner. We were able to get back into that round to draft Damian Swann out of Georgia. In doing that we gave up our sixth (round selection) this year and then next year's sixth which is really equivalent to this year's seventh. Rather than going with a sixth and seventh this year, we did a sixth next year. He's played multiple positions there in that defense. He has been under a couple different defensive coordinators. We feel like we have a pretty good relationship and a pretty good idea of a lot of the coaches at that school and have talked to a number of people about him. He was a highly recruited defensive back coming out of high school. We see him as a corner, a guy that can compete in the nickel as well. We really like his football instincts. Then we moved to our last pick here a few minutes ago, the guy we drafted is from Missouri, his name is Marcus Murphy. He is a running back/punt returner/kick returner. He really stood out on our study when it came to the return game. There were two returners that were graded for us really high, (Tyler) Lockett who was drafted earlier out of Kansas State and then Marcus Murphy from Missouri. He does have some versatility in that unlike Lockett, where Lockett would be a receiver clearly and a returner, Marcus would be a guy that would kind of be in that running back/joker position. But we see him as a punt and kick returner and he was our last selection today. We kind of flip gears here to free agency and that will get started, I imagine, in the next half hour or so. We are kind of going through, just as we are stacking the board, I say this every year, you are kind of prioritizing who you are wanting to bring in and periodically, bang, a guy comes off and gets drafted and it has happened a couple of times already. Any questions?"
What does your kick return/punt return depth chart look like? Would C.J. Spiller maybe do that for you?
"He certainly can. He certainly can and yet as his snaps have gone up, especially last year in Buffalo, he played quite a bit of snaps offensively so you just have that flexibility. He is an elite returner coming out of Clemson and yet depending on how we are using him in the game we just feel like this guy had a unique skillset when we watched his return reel. I would say he is a shorter, stockier build, about 195 pounds but as a vertical returner, a guy that would hit it north and south. I would say kind of a fearless, strong type of returner as opposed to a linear build. I like his makeup just in visiting with him. He has great football IQ, he is smart, he is a great kid and this was I think an important pick for us that we were able to get him."
Was it a major priority to bring in a lot of corners in free agency this offseason?
"Yes, it was a 'must' positon to begin with. We were fortunate to go out and sign a player like Brandon (Browner), and then Kyle (Wilson) was someone that we discussed and we were able to pick up late in free agency, and then with some of these young players where their grades were. There is a little less pressure going into the draft with the addition of a few of those veteran players, and yet we are seeing a lot more sub-offenses now and we just feel like we need to stack that position. I know the immediate question is you start penciling names and where do they all fit and really the true honest answer to that is we are going to see. We are going to have them out there and create the competition and look at guys. I would say this, the two players that we drafted this year, the two players we just drafted, we think have versatility and a makeup and a skillset that can play inside if need be. Both of them are guys that are around the ball a lot. Both of them are guys that everyone would describe as guys that have good football instincts that can handle more than just one spot. So that gives you a little flexibility with them but, yeah, I would think that it is a fair statement what you said."
Do you feel confident about what you have in your receivers and tight ends?
"I would say this, to start with the receivers, yes. You guys are around our team a lot and I think last year at this time we were able to hit on a couple of free agent receivers that we think are going to be good football players. We think Nick Toon is developing. A lot of the snaps last year toward the end of the year we started seeing him make some plays. He is a tremendous worker who has size. Of course Brandin (Cooks) is back healthy, Marques (Colston) is a veteran presence for us. We certainly have a vision for him. Joe Morgan is a guy we are real familiar with, and so I think the signing of those younger receivers a year ago this time, and they are not household names but guys in the building. Now that wouldn't have kept us from drafting a receiver and we really, when we went into this exercise, potentially saw ourselves with one of those early picks. There was a receiver or two (at that point) that we valued a lot. It didn't unfold that way so we didn't approach it like we had to get a receiver. The better question is, 'Hey, what is the vision and can this guy beat out?' but I think we are going to hear a lot of good things from Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman. Those are some guys that we feel like are progressing real well, and I do feel confident in that position group. Back to the trade of Kenny (Stills), that probably doesn't happen if we didn't have that confidence in some younger guys on the roster."
Last year you drafted some guys who had spotty histories. Then (Khairi) Fortt and (Tavon) Rooks were pretty marginal guys. Two of your draft picks are already gone?
"One player transferred from Penn State, and Rooks was a guy we were real familiar with. From a character standpoint, there weren't any issues. We wished they'd still be on the team and would have made it. That's not a change in philosophy. It's been very consistent with who we've tried to be with the makeup of our team. I feel like the class this year, right now, has got that DNA that we're looking for. We'll see. We say this every year; these guys will have to come in and earn their spots. That's part of the competition. We shoot for that. We look for guys that are competitive and love playing football."
Did you put a high value in the fifth round on guys who had played a lot of football in college and their production?
"That would be the case, it's a coincidence that happened in the fifth round. When we read players, guys who have had consistent productive careers, there's a value to that two-fold: A, they're available and healthy and B, they're good players. That doesn't mean we're skeptical or we don't look at a guy that maybe really excelled at one season. There's a reason, and we try to really look close at it. Both of those guys, the Fresno State tackle who's had a really good career there, and the outside linebacker from Tennessee Chattanooga is a really good player. Typically when we read a player, we're going through the measurables. We're going through production, we're going through years started, any injury history, character makeup. A lot of times what we don't get is the presser or the sheet you get with the All-Conference. After each of these picks, before I come down here, you just go through it. I would say that certainly those guys are decorated players, not only their school but in their conference and the level of their competition. And that's a good thing."
Would Tull have gone higher if not for the injured shoulder?
"That's probably fair to say. Man, he has real good measurables when you look at his jumps, his speed, his height/weight, all of those things. It's just a matter of how teams had him graded. The yellow for us means that he's going to rehab and injury and it's going to be fully prepared and healthy. Yet that first rookie camp, potentially he's not going to be involved in some of the early stuff. For him, he's a quick study, he's smart, he's a good learner. You have to look at your grade and say we're willing to wait a little bit. This guy has got a real good skill set."
Do you ever look at Sparq numbers, combining measurables into one number?
"We come to some single numbers, I don't know that we abbreviate it like Sparq. We'll do a wingspan study as it compares to height. We'll do a few different ratios. We find ourselves looking across the board oftentimes with similar positions, past history in the league, average right now. When we read a player eight minutes before we pick, give us his combine ranking per his peer group, his position group. How does that currently rank when he enters the league? The majority of players are similar, he'd be the exception. He'd be the exception in a positive way or a negative. There are certain jumps, there are certain measurables height- or weight-wise and wingspan-wise that we would value more for certain position groups than others. We factor that in."
What do you hope this draft has done for your defense with six guys? How immediate do you think they can contribute?
"Well your first hope is that there's that vision that they all can contribute in some way. We value guys that can cover, and I think that's something that'll be important. We've got a couple of corners that we feel can do that. Also, the guys up front, we have a real good outside linebacker early in the draft in (Hau'oli) Kikaha and interior wise, a defensive tackle. Before you make the selection one more time, we do it in February and we do it again a month ago, then one more time today, the vision one more time. We see this player coming in and competing at either tackle position, making a game day roster where he's part of the 46, and playing this amount of snaps. This will be the vision. Nothing's promised, but we go through this exercise with each of these players. Tull, we're getting ready to select him, what's the vision again? Four core special teams player? We know he can back up at Sam and we feel like he can play and be a part of the sub rush package. That would be the vision. We would do that with each player."
Will the defense feel the effects sooner on the field with 6 out of 9 guys? Especially with one of the offensive players being a backup quarterback?
"With regards to the quarterback position, that's a little different. The one thing that's exciting is there's two, three, four names here we haven't discussed yet that have a good chance of making the roster. We just don't know who they are based on our numbers the last three or four years, that are still on a magnet undrafted right now. We have to find Josh Hill and Pierre Thomas. We have to find that type of player. You're excited. Hopefully we've been able to address some of the spots we talked about or set out to do on defense. More importantly, as a team, in the kicking game and for us as a whole."
You went into the draft seemingly with a lot of flexibility but you only made one move toward the bottom of the draft. Was that not for lack of trying or did you decide at some point to stay with the guys where we are?
"It wasn't for lack of trying. I said yesterday, the first pick was pretty clear. The prices to get from #13 to four or five were real high compensation type scenarios. At #31 it was a little different. Was there a targeted player maybe that we come get or do we sit tight? We were able to do that and draft a player we really wanted. I think it can vary. I think because you have a little bit more fire power with the number of draft picks we have, it does give you some flexibility. And yet, I thought in a handful of cases, the players came to us, and we were prepared to go up and get Tull. We sat and fortunately we were able to get him with one of our first picks there, and follow up with the defensive tackle. And then, I don't think this was unique to us, but there was that one magnet that sat there by itself, the corner at Georgia. Then it got to the point where we were able to look at the grade and we're really trying to value where we saw this player. That really kind of made it easy for us to get back into the fifth. There weren't as many transactions, but I don't know that there weren't as many calls. Certainly it seemed like a lot of dialogue in regards to opportunities."
We haven't talked to you since you re-signed Joe Morgan. Obviously, you've had highs and lows with him, but what went into that?
"There are a lot of steps that go into that. He's a player that took a number of initiatives to do some things to work on to get an opportunity to come back. We felt comfortable with that, and had a long visit with him. He's someone that I feel like I know real well, and I know Mickey feels the same way. We feel comfortable bringing him back on the roster; he's someone that has really developed well. We've got a lot of time on task with Joe as a receiver, and I feel like we've got a lot of time on task with him as a person. I think that giving him that opportunity was something that was deserved."
When he was released last season, was that for on-field football mistakes?
"No, it was really just a handful of things that were really just between us and the player."
When you lose a dynamic player like Jimmy Graham, how different will your offense be? Will you formulate your offense differently without him?
"We always try to do a study before making a trade like that. In 2006, there were players that we tried to target with regards to the passing game and the running game; of course it was Reggie's rookie season, Marques was a rookie, Terrance Copper, and Joe Horn; we've had a handful of different tight ends, and so over the years, with players that have come and gone, David Patten arrives in free agency the one year and there's maybe a package or two that might feature his skill set, and then there's that time where Reggie is traded post-2009 and now Darren Sproles becomes kind of a guy that is featured. This has included David Thomas, Jeremy Shockey, running backs that have different versatility, Heath Evans. The same thing, obviously on a bigger magnitude, but the same thing would lead you to believe that (C.J.) Spiller will play an important role, just as our other backs Khiry (Robinson) and Mark (Ingram) will play in the base. It certainly opens door for receivers, because we are really talking about touches, completions, and opportunities with the ball in their hands. I don't know if it necessarily philosophically changes who we are, but we do want to be able to run the football, and when we've done that and had success doing that, we are a better team. I think it's not one piece for piece and more of an evolution that we take. Obviously, there's a percentage of things that happen during the season that involve injuries, and we've got to be flexible enough to know that there are some games that we might not have one of our front line starters. We've kind of done that and the one constant through this has been a quarterback that we think has been an elite player. One of the challenges that you don't really hear a lot about is just the amount of on-field work that Drew (Brees) might have with, since he's been here, I'll bet 25 different receivers, seven different tight ends, that each year it's here we go. Brandon Cooks was new last year, how about these two young practice squad players, what do we think Spiller can do, Khiry has evolved as a receiver, Mark's back; so, there is that change that takes place, and it's happened with a lot of really good players in our league at the quarterback position, their careers are long, and often times a lot of the players around them have success. You can go back through Drew's career, and we do this once in a while, name the receivers in 2007, and it kind of runs together a little bit. Jamaal Jones was a 2006 player. So I think it'll evolve that way to answer your question, as opposed to turning the page to a whole new setup, I think it's still build around Drew and what we feel like he does well."
How valuable was Jeff Ireland to this draft process?
"He was extremely valuable. Obviously, we lost a real talent in a personnel man in Ryan Pace, and I'm sure he's sweating bullets the last three days with his first draft. Trying to get him to trade was difficult, but I'm sure he did a great job. He's very thorough, and Jeff is someone I've worked with and Mickey and I knew. I worked with him in Dallas for three years and he is a very experienced personnel guy. He cut his teeth as a scout; he really is experienced in setting up a draft board and valuing traits that we value the same. Both of us, for three years, heard a handful of things pounded into us from Bill (Parcells), and here we are in this draft and this discussion is maybe a short corner or an undersize, and the whole time I'm looking at him and saying, 'You're taking the call from Parcells, not me' and that type of thing. There are traits that he learned, and we were both fortunate to have those three years together, but he's real savvy, smart, and he loves football. He really did a good job, and our scouting department worked extremely hard as well. Any time you have a transition like that in year one it's not necessarily easy. Any one of us in a job that has a new leader is not an easy transition. He did a great job of taking the information from the scouts, communicating the message, and I thought the process worked well."
Associated Press photos of new Saints LB Davis Tull.